POTA Additional Scenes (3): Burke's Plan




Episode 3: The Trap

Burke can't sleep for coughing. (This one addresses a question Mike posed on the friends_and_fugitives yahoo group regarding poor Zako.)


His lungs felt heavy for days afterward, and he coughed a lot. Lying down made it worse. The air underground had been bad--the dust of a dead past stirred and breathed in, relived. Now he couldn't get rid of it.

He'd wakened a lot at night after the cave-in. He dreamed of pulling Urko off his horse, the earth falling from beneath his feet. Once he dreamed of Urko's fist doubled up against his mouth, pressing inside, the leather jamming into his throat and he couldn't breathe--

Panic woke him. He still couldn't breathe. He sat up and coughed, then coughed some more. His foot kicked the blackened embers of their campfire. The woods behind them were silent save for the cicadas.

Galen stirred, turning to squint at Pete in the starlight. Pete turned his head away and kept coughing. The next thing he knew, Galen was crouching beside him, water flask in hand. Pete grabbed at it and drank, thirsty gulps of water.

On the other side of Burke, Alan rolled over, blinking at them.

A poster from the wall of the subway flashed in Burke's memory, unasked for and unwanted. Orange and black advertisement, enticement, a cartoon of a gorilla behind bars. It bothered him in retrospect. But at the time, human civilization hadn't known. And in the end, they'd sure as hell paid for it.  

Zako had been a decent gorilla, though. More than decent--against Urko's direct orders, he'd let them go. Alan and Galen had filled Burke in on how Zako had helped rescue him. Zako did it for Urko, not for him, but still.

"Are you all right?" Galen asked.

Pete cleared his throat. He smiled tiredly. "A-okay," he rasped. He gave Galen the thumbs up.

Galen snorted. "So I can hear. Were you dreaming?"

The phantom feeling of heavy dust coating his scalp had Burke scratching his head again. "Just reliving a past I was never part of," he quipped. "Well, not the pill meals and disposable clothing part, anyway."

"I have no idea what you're talking about." Galen sighed. "Of course."

"What's going on?" Alan rubbed his eyes and sat up. "You okay?" He looked at Pete.

"Would both of you quit worrying, I'm fine," said Burke, and at the same time Galen said, "He was coughing again. Talking in his sleep--another dream."

"Tattle-tale." Burke made a face at Galen.

Galen huffed out another breath and was silent.

Alan looked from one and then the other. "I see," he said at last.

Burke cleared his throat again, couldn't help it. It felt coated all the time, and his lungs oddly heavy. He knew exactly what would happen next. Alan and Galen were going to exchange concerned glances. He looked away so he didn't have to see. "Save your worry for someone who needs it. I've been thinking about Zako. What's going to happen to him when Urko finds out we're still alive?"

"Oh, he'll almost certainly be shot. Even if Urko doesn't do it, Zaius will," Galen said somberly.

The trio fell silent again.

"Think we can manage a jailbreak?" Burke asked.

"I think we can try," Alan said. "We have somewhere else we need to be first, but we'll go right after."

"Where?" Burke coughed again, grimacing. He tasted blood in his throat. "I think I need a doctor," he confessed.

"You think?" Alan retorted. He looked at Galen. Galen looked back. In unison, they shook their heads worriedly.

Burke groaned. "Stop doing that, will you?"

"We're on our way to see a friend of mine. She's a veterinarian, quite accomplished." Galen's eyes crinkled as he smiled. "She's agreed to treat you."  

"Veterinarian?" Burke said.

"She's nearby, and you need medicine." Alan patted Pete's shoulder gently. "Besides, Galen says humans are her specialty."

Alan and Galen grinned at Pete, matching smiles of expectation--and what Burke was sure was no small amount of glee.

"Specialty?" Burke repeated, outraged. He started to speak but coughed again instead.

Alan and Galen moved closer, hovering. Their smiles vanished.

Pete straightened to frown at both of them as soon as he was able. "Will you give me some room?" he all but yelled. When they retreated he lay down again, turning his back to them. "Galen and his never-ending supply of friends, cousins, uncles, hairdressers...whatever," he grumbled under his breath. He heard the two of them stifle chuffs of laughter. The idiots. Didn't they think he could hear?

"Sick man trying to sleep here," Burke rasped, listening until they settled down on either side again. He closed his eyes and slept.